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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Library Record as Window to the Soul 


I know I am breaking a cardinal rule of blogging by updating my blog so pathetically infrequently. I am continuing to suffer from post partum retardation/feeble mindedness, still forgetting matters of vital importance like zipping my fly and not leaving keys in doors. Motherhood after forty has kicked my ass. I am a spawned out salmon, Charlie after the smart drugs wore off.

Librarians are generally fanatically, pig-headedly protective of patrons’ privacy and civil liberties. This is why most are not fans of the Patriot Act, which requires libraries to cough up patron’s checkout histories, ostensibly to aid in the War against Terror. I’m a bit conflicted over the matter myself – I’m all for saving lives and stopping terrorism Jack Bauer style, but it seems once you concede civil liberties, even for one defined, limited area, law enforcement will slowly creep their fresh powers into unrelated areas. And usually that area is The War on Drugs, a war in which I am a conscientious objector. (See Fisa courts, a short cut to warrantless wire tapping created to protect citizens against terrorism, but soon became just a way to obtain warrantless wire-taps to be used for anything, especially drug cases. Seems investigators just can’t help themselves…) Our library system goes so far as to expunge a patron’s checkout history in case, say, the Feds come a knockin’ and demand to scrutinize records to obtain warrants to search people’s houses for marijuana because they once checked out a book on hydroponic gardening.

To thwart the Patriot Act, our system expunges patrons' checkout histories with just two major exceptions: if the patron has fines associated with the item or has kept the items so long that they have been billed. A colleague in the interlibrary loan department frequently scans the crime section of newspapers to look up suspects' library records to see if they have any interlibrary loan books checked out. And believe, me, these deperados are always card carrying members of the library, and their library records are typically a disaster of billed items and late fines. I’m not saying that having a checkered library record is an indicator of criminal/anti-social/psychotic tendencies, but I must say they often they do go together. If you're a scofflaw, maintaining a spotless your library account is the least of your concerns. Because I am a Nosy Parker inquisitive person and student of human nature I always ask him to tell me the good ones. Often they are poignant reflection of their dreams and goals and attempts to better themselves or to seek power. Often they are incriminating, or exactly what you would expect. In any case, they offer a unique insight into the person's mind, or at least his or her taste in reading.

DISCLAIMER: the following have been all heavily disguised to protect the innocent and guilty. You will not uncover anyone’s actual name regardless of your Google sleuthing skills. I too consider a patron’s privacy sacred (or saaaaycred, as I heard it pronounced when I lived in Alabama).

A parolee intravenous meth addict suspected of a murder break-in:
The Satanic Bible (not one but two copies)
Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People

A man who strangled his common law wife, stuffed her body in a suitcase and dumped it in the ocean:
Inside the Australian Parliament
Deliberative Democracy in Australia: The Changing Place of Parliament
I suspect he had hopes of escaping the long arm of the law and immigrating, but they dry tomes would offer no insight or help into the immigration process.

The man who beat his neighbor to death in his own garage with a tire iron over an easement dispute:
Nolo Press' Neighbor Law At least he tried to go the legal, civilized route.

The man who stabbed a bus driver randomly and senselessly:Love Signs and You: The Ultimate Astrological Guide to Love
Numbers and You: A Numerology Guide for Everyday LivingThe 48 Laws of Power
Lonely, powerless and trying to make sense of a random universe?

The man with no pants who robbed a bank
7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Then again, if a criminal profiler were to analyze my currently checked out items: Goebbels Diaries 1941-1943; Traci Lords Underneath it All and The Everything Fondue Party Book, they would most likely conclude that this is someone with a dangerously disordered mind. Seize her!

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